It’s been two years since Lana Del Rey released her successful début album Born To Die and became a household name within the music industry. She released a few EP’s to keep our appetite but now she’s back with a brand new record aptly titled Ultraviolence. Will this album sound as haunting and classic as its predecessor?
Cruel World instantly makes me feel as if I’m in a Clint Eastwood film with the reverb on the guitars and the country/rock feel. It’s definitely similar to her earlier work such as Ride. The song is about having to leave a wild lover because you know he’s a cheater and can’t be tamed. The lyrics are quite beautiful and paint a film I could imagine Jennifer Lawrence playing the main role in. I especially like the last quarter when it gradually slows in tempo as if it’s a live performance. Overall it’s a nice track and a great opener as it represents the album theme.
Ultraviolence is very haunting as it describes a woman in an abusive relationship from a man that tells her she’s poison but at the same time tells her he loves her. It’s always uneasy when a topic like domestic abuse is raised in a song as people can easily slam the song for glorifying violence. But I think Lana Del Rey does a great job at representing a victim of battered woman syndrome. This is when they think their abusive lover truly loves them and they don’t mean to be abusive. Ultraviolence’s composition is reminiscent of her successful single Summertime Sadness as they both offer beautiful catchy choruses. Overall, this song is definitely a stand-out on the album.
Shades Of Cool
This is the point where I notice the themes of women in a relationship with suave dudes that cannot be tamed and they’re the damsel in distress. It very much coincides with the 50’s style that Lana Del Rey emits, back when women were brought up to get married and have kids and had no say in the matter as they weren’t deemed as equal. Lana Del Rey’s vocals have become more powerful since the last album as she croons over the chorus of this song effortlessly. I do wonder if anyone can really relate to this type of song and makes me question if it matches her demographic? This album is a lot grittier than the last and features slightly less commercial compositions swapping catchy hooks for moody electric guitars. Overall, it’s a nice chilled out track.
This song is about a couple that people don’t think match, but the couple themselves think that their opposites are what attracts them so much more and they don’t care about people’s perceptions. I’ve now started to notice that most of these songs feature the same formula where they repeat the same sentence from verse one to verse two and repeat the last chorus twice at the end. However, you can’t deny the lyrics are great. For example “They judge me like a picture book, by the colours, like they forgot to read” is poignant and relatable. Yet again this style is similar to Ride but sonically more interesting.
When I first heard this single I said to myself “She didn’t pick the most radio friendly song as a lead single.” But after listening to the album, this is the closest to radio friendly! I wasn’t sure I liked it at first as the pace kept swaying from mid-tempo to down-tempo making the song sound dreary. But it kind of works after a few listens and you start to find yourself humming “down on the west coast, they’ve got a saying”. I’m not 100 percent sure what the song is about, but it’s not too different from the previous themes of being in love with a really cool guy (preferably whilst on the West Coast). I love the synth towards the end, it sounds like it belongs in a Hip Hop song but it works on this alternative track. (I actually think the synth originated from West Coast Hip Hop such as Snoop Dogg which is very smart)
The lyrics are definitely one of the highlights of the album as she talks about being the mistress on the side. The mistress tries to make out as if she’s fine being the side chick and just because it may not “appeal to fools like you” does not mean it’s wrong. But deep down she’s unhappy as he has his main woman by his side, whereas she is not allowed to be seen around him in public. It’s very depressing but an interesting topic to discuss. The lyrics remind me of Aaliyah’s ‘I Can Be’ from her album Aaliyah.
Pretty When You Cry
OK, who did Lana Del Rey wrong? There is definitely a trend here with males being represented as pigs and treating their other half’s like a second priority to drugs and partying. It’s a very heart-rending song of a woman knowing her man is worthless yet she still sticks around. It’s suggested it’s because when she does cry and talks of her unhappiness he makes it all better and says you’re so pretty when you cry and thus the cycle ensues. This song is probably relatable for a lot of people. Overall, it’s a great listen.
Money Power Glory
This song confuses me as it talks about being interested in becoming rich and powerful and waiting to drain her partner of his riches and his power. However in the first verse it suggests they can’t afford to move due to how they’re living? Maybe they’re rich but spending the money on drugs and aren’t saving enough to move? It’s the first track where the woman has a plan to use the guy as a second priority. However, I’m unsure if anyone can turn this track on and say “This is my song!” as it glorifies gold –diggers. Overall it’s OK but doesn’t strike me as much as the previous tracks. At this rate I’m somewhat ready for a mid-tempo track to wake me up.
**** My Way To The Top
My wish was well received as the album picks up pace with **** My Way To The Top. This song is as the title explains, sleeping your way to the top. It’s a jarring song which you wouldn’t expect someone to sing about. I almost wonder if this is a diss track towards someone within the industry as she mocks them. The chorus is one of the catchiest chorus’ on the album due to the repetitive expletive but overall it’s an interesting track that makes me ponder how it came to be created.
Old Money features violins that remind me of National Anthem. This also sounds like it could be a soundtrack for Maleficent even though Lana Del Rey already lent her vocals for the soundtrack. It’s a beautiful track which sounds as if it stems from Lana Del Rey’s personal life. It could be interpreted as although she’s changed from her small town girl beginnings she’ll still keep in contact with her old friends but she worries that if she does become famous will you still love her for how you knew her personally and not because she’s a celebrity. It also discusses how although she was brought up in a wealthy family with a loving father and a glamorous mother she always felt alone “for reasons unknown to me”. Overall, the lyrics are interesting to ponder.
The Other Woman
This track is basically a shortened version of Sad Girl. It almost romanticizes a secret relationship for the first half of the song but soon the reality of being the other woman is a lonesome life. I was going to say they could have just cut this song and kept Sad Girl but it’s a beautiful tragedy song and definitely sounds like it was recorded decades ago as it’s so short and sweet.
West Coast (Radio Mix)
This version is a lot more upbeat than the original version and gets rid of the change in pace which keeps the energy of the song. I prefer this version but it does seem different to the rest of the album which lacks kicks and an uptempo vibe.
This song is about how her lover is negative and doesn’t notice the beauty around him no matter how hard she tries to show him and please him. It’s an OK song and it’s understandable that it’s a bonus track. Overall, the topic is a little sparse and doesn’t really grip you as much as it should. It’s just a little too slow and dreary and could have been cut down by a minute.
Guns and Roses
This song from what I can tell is about a guy that was the best she ever had but she wasn’t the marrying type so let him go. It’s OK but alike to Black Beauty it doesn’t strike as hard as the other songs on the album which is probably why it was made as a bonus track. Overall it’s OK but I could have done without it.
This track immediately sounds different to the rest of the album as it lacks any reverb echo on the guitars which makes you pay attention. It’s basically the soundtrack for Breaking Bad as she discusses how she and her lover create drugs and they don’t care if they get caught because they’ll be together. It’s reminiscent of Blue Jeans lyrically but this song is surprisingly a stand-out for the album. It definitely has the catchiest chorus from the entire album and the production is sonically interesting. I don’t think it should have been a bonus track since it has single potential in comparison to the other tracks on the album. Overall, it’s a great track.
Overall, Ultraviolence is an album that is beautiful if you’re into meaningful lyrics that detract from the typical generic instances that Pop tends to discuss at any given moment. It delves into domestic abuse, depression, being the other woman and much more. It isn’t the most cheery album of the year but that shouldn’t take anything away from its quality. Another highlight of the album is Lana Del Rey’s improved vocals. She sounds more confident in her ad-libs and glides across the album like a ghost. Some of the best tracks on the album are Ultraviolence which luckily is a single, Florida Kilos and Sad Girl. A lowlight of the album is the lack of diversity within the production of the tracks. It’s understandable that Lana Del Rey has an ongoing theme, but that doesn’t mean the producers can’t switch it up a bit. It sometimes feels as if you can’t tell that a new song has started because they all feature the same instruments. Songs on Born To Die on the other hand had the same themes yet they all stood out equally. I also think it lacks a few uptempo/midtempo tracks to keep the general audience interested, it reaches a point where you check the track-list to see how many other songs are left. Not because you don’t like the songs, but because they’re quite slow. Overall, I would say this album is worth buying on iTunes (including the deluxe version). I know some people either love Lana Del Rey or they feel indifferent to her, but if you’re a fan of creative lyrics you’ll enjoy this album. It doesn’t have concrete hit singles like Born To Die but it’s an experience listening to this album and makes you feel relaxed. I definitely think this is a great effort for a sophomore album, it’s not as radio friendly but it sounds true to Lana Del Rey’s style and it’s great to see that she didn’t let the fame commercialize her work. I look forward to what she has next.
Rating: Buy it on iTunes
Highlights: Ultraviolence, Florida Kilos, Sad Girl, West Coast, Cruel World, Brooklyn Baby, The song-writing, Lana Del Rey’s vocals.
Lowlights: The production could have been more diverse; singles aren’t as strong as the first album.
Let me know what you thought of the album in the comments below! Did you love it, hate it or somewhere in between?
Also, let me know what album I should review in the future?
Tune in next week as I review Ed Sheeran’s sophomore album “Multiply”
So after a short break whilst on the American Idol panel, Jennifer Lopez returns with a new album boasting that she is still the same girl from the block that we once knew and loved. She’s said in recent interviews that this album will feature more R&B than her previous albums which were mostly produced by Red One and has enlisted the help of some rappers aside from Pitbull such as French Montana, Iggy Azalea and even Nas. This is a risky move from J-Lo since dance hits such as On The Floor and Follow The Leader put her back on the map. So will this album be able to deliver the nostalgia of some of her arguably most iconic singles from the start of her career? Let’s hope so.
A.K.A (Feat T.I)
A few seconds into this track you begin to think that J-Lo lied to you when she said she’d take it back to R&B since the synthesiser within the track is dance. In addition to this, the first lyric states that “this is not the same girl you knew” which is a complete contradiction to the Same Girl promotion. It’s a good intro for the album because the tempo is not too fast nor too slow which is a good representation of the album as a whole. Jennifer Lopez also sings confidently that she’s “switching up her style” presumably from EDM to R&B/Pop. The lyrics are a little generic and simple and make you feel as if the song could have been cut down to one minute thirty seconds literally just as an intro. Overall, it’s a good listen.
This song is made for the summer radio however it does sound a little bit dated. It’s not the catchiest song and lacks an identity to separate J-Lo from any other artist on the radio. It’s understandable why they’d make this a first single due to its radio friendly sound but it doesn’t make her stand out in anyway and doesn’t make me believe she’s the same girl she spoke about. The song is basically about wishing the person she’s currently in love with was the first person to come into her life so she wouldn’t have had to have so many failed romances. Overall, it’s listenable but rather disposable.
This song is an unexpected ballad. The problem here is that a ballad normally features either a great vocalist or great lyrics. Never Satisfied is unfortunately distant from both. This is because the lyrics are very cliché and have been used in almost every generic ballad. “One taste is never enough… I’m thinking about your sweet love all of the time” these lyrics don’t make J-Lo or the track stand out in any way. Overall, this song doesn’t hit as much as it should because there’s been better songs about needing somebody. Nevertheless, it’s probably the first track on the album that represents a different style.
I Luh Ya Papi (Feat French Montana)
On a first listen, this song can come across as quite uninspiring and monotonous. But the hook is rather catchy and it’s surprising that it didn’t perform better in the charts since it’s not much different to other songs in the mainstream. The verses are what makes the song uninteresting, yet again the lyrics aren’t captivating as she talks about how hot she is and how hot the guy she’s pursuing is. There isn’t enough memorable lyrics for the general listener to sing along which means the song is only good for 30 seconds. French Montana’s rap isn’t catchy or memorable and adds nothing to the track. I Luh Ya Papi shouldn’t have been picked as the first single since there isn’t enough energy to keep you entertained. The beat is also a letdown as it doesn’t climate to anything. Overall, this track is forgettable.
Acting Like That (Feat Iggy Azalea)
When I saw she had a track with Iggy Azalea I wondered why it wasn’t immediately the first single since Azalea is on fire right now. But the reason is because the song is sonically dull. It’s as if Lopez decided to drop the dance instrumentals for a R&B/Pop sound but kept the same dance lyrics and vocal tendencies you’d hear on a dance track making it repetitive and lacklustre. Iggy’s rap fails to even rhyme and sounds like a forced feature where you can tell the artists didn’t even meet for a drink beforehand. It’s a shame since her latest collaboration with Ariana Grande was very good. On top of that, the song doesn’t have a decisive ending leaving you feeling underwhelmed. After listening to the song a couple of times, it grows on you within the hook leaving the song not a complete failure.
You can tell Jennifer Lopez doesn’t sing this song effortlessly. It’s unusual for J-Lo to sing out of her comfort zone vocally but lyrically this is one of the best songs on the album. It may even be the most personal whereas other songs leave you unsure whether they are related to J-Lo’s personal life at all. The production is stripped backed so you can hear the vulnerability in her voice. A gripe with this song is that the melody of which she sings doesn’t match the beat making it sound awkward. The hook “Someone took my emotions” is quite catchy and you might find yourself singing it in public like the person writing this review. Overall, a decent track!
This song sounds like a part two to Emotions as she’s not fazed by the hate she’s received from her last relationship. Yet again this sounds more personal and believable for J-Lo and although the song isn’t necessarily gripping it’s not bad. Yet again, I think the production is lacking and fails to stand out. Weirdly enough, the beat sounds reminiscent of a GTAV soundtrack that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Let It Be Me
Let It Be Me sounds like old school J-Lo with the Spanish guitar at the beginning. The lyrics are also an improvement from the previous tracks. The quiet, mysterious production leaves you intrigued. It’s a little cheesy as it sounds similar to a lullaby but it’s still enrapturing. This song is a soft ballad about letting it be known that she’s the one you love. This song is one of the few where J-Lo’s vocals don’t sound too thin and suit the song perfectly. Overall, it’s a good track to chill to.
Worry No More (Feat Rick Ross)
The production is similar to the other songs on A.K.A but sonically it’s more interesting. I feel as if these songs were made for rappers since they lack melody which makes it hard for J-Lo’s vocals to resonate properly. Rick Ross suits this song perfectly and could easily pass as his own as he almost steals the show. Otherwise, the lyrics are unexciting leaving the instrumental as the highlight of the track.
Booty (Feat Pitbull)
The opening to Booty sounds very similar to Goin In when the kicks start. It’s certainly up-tempo but a slightly darker version of dance. I wouldn’t say this is different from her last album. You can immediately tell this is the best single for the album. It’s got a catchy hook and features the predispositions of a general dance song. Lopez’s monotone vocals work well with the beat as they sync together perfectly. You can tell she feels more comfortable with up-tempo music as she confidently handles the beat. Pitbull is one of Lopez’s long time collaborators that no one asked for. I personally feel as if Ciara would have been a great feature on this track. Imagine the music video choreography? It would really work for both of them and I don’t remember the last time Lopez collaborated with someone that wasn’t a rapper. Pitbull’s rap is stereotypical of him as it doesn’t add much to the song and could easily be edited out. It’s not as good as On The Floor but it’s better than her previous dance singles she’s released of late.
Tens (feat jack Mizrahi)
This song is interesting even if Mizrahi’s voice sounds like an 80’s action figure. This is a very sassy track and sounds very much inspired by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Britney Spears’ Work Bitch. It really works for J-Lo since she’s such a fashion icon and has been known to be a diva, I could see this as a third single. This song could be even bigger if she collaborated with Lady Gaga for a full on vogue session. Overall, the song is enjoyable and a different style that works.
Troubeaux (Feat Nas)
This track works melodically in comparison to other tracks on A.K.A. Troubeaux could easily pass as a song from an old school Jennifer Lopez album and is the closest to R&B/Hip Hop on the album. Nas’ rap is good and takes me back to their previous collaboration on “I’m gonna be alright”. Overall, it’s a great track.
Expertease reminds me of First Love but it sounds a little more interesting. It suffers the same fate as First Love where this song could be given to anyone (like Nicole Scherzinger) as it lacks an identity. It doesn’t really show Jennifer Lopez in a unique way but it’s a nice track to chill to.
Unfortunately Same Girl sounds rather dated as if it were released in 2007. You can tell Chris Brown helped with the track since it sounds similar to Champion. Luckily it was just a bonus track and not a single like it was first rumoured. Overall this song isn’t really relatable to anyone. It sounds like it could be on a soundtrack for a Step Up film on a montage scene.
A.K.A doesn’t necessarily bring back the old Jennifer Lopez we knew and loved it. It does have hints of the old school R&B/Latin tracks that she used to produce with songs like Let It Be Me and Troubeaux but overall it sounds like a watered down version of the dance music she’s released. It’s almost as if it’s a transition album from dance to pop with R&B influences but it hasn’t quite reached its destination yet which leaves the album sounding somewhat unsparingly mediocre. This is because the lyrics are similar to what you’d hear on a dance track but it’s coincided with minimal pop/R&B production leaving you with nothing to hold on to that you actually like. Some tracks do stand out however, such as Let It Be Me, Booty and Tens are all different in their own way. The sassiness of Tens works so well within J-Lo’s favour and I’m amazed she hasn’t ventured into that territory before as it doesn’t require much singing but some catchy hooks which Jennifer Lopez is very good at. Booty is no departure from her previous album and it seems as if Jennifer Lopez’s vocals are a lot more comfortable on a dance production than an R&B instrumental that leaves her vulnerable. The more interesting tracks are bonus tracks which are an amazing oversight since Nas was the best feature on the album and Expertease and Tens had single potential. Overall, it’s hard to place this album, because half of the songs are OK (provided you listen to the deluxe version) and half of them are forgettable. I would say it’s Ok but it lacks replay-ability. It doesn’t have any tracks that will have you playing it for a whole year and in comparison to her older albums it’s not a cohesive album. If you are going to purchase this album I would definitely recommend you make the most of your money and buy the deluxe version since the majority of the best tracks are featured as bonuses. Otherwise, I don’t know if this is the right direction Jennifer Lopez should go. The best tracks are the dance tracks where her vocals are most comfortable. Her R&B attempts just aren’t believable and I wonder if J-Lo can really relate to them herself. I hope Jennifer Lopez looks at this album as a work in progress and takes her time to perfect the next album.
Tens, Let It Be Me, Troubeaux, Booty
Acting Like That, Never Satisfied, Best songs were bonus tracks
Rating: Lacks replay-ability
Tune in next Saturday as I review Lana Del Rey’s “Ultraviolence” album